Features, Manufacturing

Fiber laser and deburrer boosts MITS Alloy’s production efficiency and manufacturing capabilities.

Going from just a handful of employees to seventy-five in just a few short years is testament to the enormous popularity and demand for MITS Alloy’s range of heavy-duty aluminium Ute trays and canopies.

Based in Newcastle, the company was founded by Tim Lightfoot and Tony Brooks in January 2015. Tim’s existing business, Safety MITS, supplied maintenance equipment for the Mining, Earthmoving, Transportation and associated industries. Together they identified the need for durable trays, canopies, toolboxes and service bodies for four-wheel drive Utes that could stand up to the harsh abuse of work and mine sites.

Initially starting off manufacturing custom designed products, the company has evolved into developing a range of standard modular trays and canopies that would fit all popular Ute brands and models – with a number of optional accessories available to suit individual preferences and needs.

This flexibility of the modular design extends to being able to remove the tray and canopy and transfer it to another vehicle at time of sale if required.

A natural progression saw the company supplying the same high-quality products to the burgeoning recreational off road 4×4 market and more recently the fleet/trade market which has grown substantially in recent years.

Modern vehicles have an array of safety features including reversing cameras, parking sensors, autonomous braking and blind spot detection. Many of these driver aids are located in the rear bumper; this necessitated MITS to develop its own harnesses, wiring and housings to ensure these work as per the factory settings once the new trays are fitted.

The demand for the trays and canopies over recent years necessitated the need for new premises. Serendipity intervened when a large factory across the road became available earlier this year. The facility has been custom designed for MITS operations and features a 2,000sqm space for fabrication, an 1,800sqm assembly facility and 900sqm powder coating area allowing all work to now be done under the one roof.

The company’s expansion and move to larger premises has seen a corresponding investment in new sheet metal equipment, allowing the company to introduce advanced manufacturing techniques, boost production efficiency and broaden its manufacturing capabilities.

‘We already had a good relationship with Applied Machinery following our previous purchase of two Yawei press brakes. We’ve been impressed with the Yawei’s performance and reliability so a Yawei fiber laser was the obvious choice.

“The 6kW high power fiber laser is perfect for our mainly aluminium processing environment and has dramatically sped up our cutting. What used to take us 16 hours a day, over 5 days has now been reduced to just 23 hours a week over 3 days; we also have a much higher consistency of cut, a superior quality finish and our scrap rate is significantly reduced,” said Lightfoot.

Pictured: co-founder Tim Lightfoot / Image: MITS

The auto load/unload function has also been a huge time saver for the company and reduced manual handling and minimised WH&S risks. All cutting is done with high pressure compressed air alone.

“Whilst the fiber laser has been great, it is our new Weber deburrer that has been the biggest time saver – it takes all the sharp edges off parts quickly providing perfect surfaces and edges. We used to have four guys working 16 hours a day cleaning parts by hand to ensure they were touchable. We can now do a week’s work of deburring in just six hours a week with just two staff – and the quality is far superior,” said Lightfoot.

Another benefit of the new equipment is that it has allowed MITS to produce more intricate parts and reduce weight; more detail can be put into products including logos and other aesthetic enhancements.

“The Yaweis offer high performance at what is a very competitive price point. Evidence of this is the fact that we anticipate a ROI on the fiber laser in just 12-18 months.

“The back up and support from a local supplier like Applied has been great. We’ve always found the Applied team really easy to deal with; they have good tech support on the ground and get back to us quickly with a solution to any issue we encounter,” said Lightfoot.

The company has recently launched in the US where its products have found a ready market both in the recreational ‘overlanding’ side and also in more specialised areas such as police and fire and rescue vehicles.

The company’s recent application for ISO 1001 certification is likely to see these specialised type opportunities open up in the Australian market.

Recognition of MITS Alloy’s success and contribution to supporting employment in the local Newcastle area was confirmed recently with the company being named Manufacturer of the Year 2022 (50 employees or more) at the Hunter Manufacturing Awards held in December last year.

The future certainly looks bright for MITS Alloy and Tim sees the new factory and the new Yawei and Weber equipment assisting the company chase down more contract manufacturing work. The company also has big ambitions for expanding its presence and market share in the US over the next few years.

For more information, visit www.appliedmachinery.com.au

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